Report: New York the Least Free State in the U.S.

Where does your state rank in the Freedom in the 50 States report?



Moving to Florida offers more benefits than just the beaches. That's because the Sunshine State is the freest in the nation, according to the fifth edition of the Freedom in the 50 States report, published Tuesday by the Cato Institute. Meanwhile, New York ranks right at the bottom.

Wondering where your state ranks? Check it out on the interactive map below:

Florida won the top spot with its economic policies. The state has no personal income tax, and its "state-level tax collections are more than a standard deviation and a half below the national average," the study says. The state also has lower-than-average levels of government consumption and debt.

From a regulatory point of view, Florida doesn't enjoy the same level of freedom due to a variety of factors, including land-use regulations, an $8.25/hour minimum wage, regulations on managed-care plans, and a bottom-five occupational freedom ranking. In terms of personal freedom, Florida ranks 11th thanks to civil asset forfeiture reforms and educational freedom. Florida also recognizes same-sex marriage due to the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Florida state criminal code, however, still contains draconian mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and allows for capital punishment.

New Hampshire, Indiana, Colorado, and Nevada round out the top five, respectively.

On the flip side, New York is the nation's least free state, and it's been that way for a while. "Economic freedom is the most significant weakness, but the state has not kept up with the rest of the country on personal freedom either," the study says. High taxes and debt, as well as rent control, lower its rankings in the fiscal and regulatory categories. From a personal freedom viewpoint, it's a mixed bag. Though the state has repealed most of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, there are strict regulations on tobacco sales and gun rights, and school choice programs are virtually nonexistent.

Hawaii, California, New Jersey, and Vermont, round out the bottom five.

The report was authored by William Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, and Jason Sorens, a lecturer at Dartmouth College's Department of Government. The study, first published by the Mercatus Center in 2009, ranks states "on the basis of how their policies promote freedom in the fiscal, regulatory, and personal realms."

The authors gathered data on more than 230 state and local policies that affect overall freedom, which they based "on an individual rights framework" that includes both personal and economic freedom. These markers encompass "a wide range of policy categories," the study says, "from taxation to debt, from eminent domain laws to occupational licensing, and from drug policy to educational choice."

Aside from giving interested readers the chance to see where their states rank, studies like these can actually help America become freer. As Reason's Nick Gillespie explained in 2016 after Ruger and Sorens released their previous Freedom in the 50 States report:

By calling attention to differences among the states in the level of personal and economic freedoms, Ruger and Sorens make a significant contribution to how states might function as laboratories of democracy and learn from the experiments carried out around the country. Armed with the information they present and the recommendations they make, the best thing we can all do is start working for change in our own local and state governments that expand the scope of freedom in all its manifestations.

Can't get enough of Ruger and Sorens? Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward interviewed them back in 2011. Watch the exchange below:

NEXT: New Jersey's Attacks on Unlicensed Movers Hurt Entrepreneurs and Consumers

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  1. New Hampshire would be a nice place to retire to, except they tax dividends and interest as income at 5%.
    The FSP should have picked Florida then?

    1. Lots of people from Massachusetts are moving to NH, and they bring their voting habits with them. I’m surprised NH is still top 5.

      1. Better than people from Connecticut and New York, with names like yours, moving to Maine and bringing their heroin and lust for white girls with them.

    2. Not if you own property. They have notoriously high property tax rates.

      1. Just a trade-off for having no State or Local level income or sales taxes.

  2. Of course, progtards like to claim that their states have more freedoms i.e. freedom from KKKorporate oppression, reproductive freedom, LGTBQ freedom, etc.

    1. I guess being told what to do feels free as long as you like the proscribed program.

    2. I had a friend that told me that California was the most free state in the country. I dropped my jaw, “California… the state with cities that banned straws?”

      He didn’t see not being thrown into prison for sucking liquid through a straw as freedom.

      1. Texans are free to have their children issued schoolbooks written for and by superstitious, science-disdaining, backward, bigoted goobers.

        1. It’s not just Texas, those same progs have been sneaking their ascientific, ahistorical, postmodernist clap-trap into textbooks everywhere.
          That’s what you’re talking about, right?

          1. Stale-thinking, bigoted, disaffected, white-grievance-consumed, authoritarian Republicans are among my favorite faux libertarians.

            1. Rev.,

              Have you been training how to get the demon out of the serpent?

            2. Good thing they are few and far between. Unlike Stale-thinking, bigoted, disaffected, white-grievance-consumed, authoritarian Democrats, who are the majority.

        2. As opposed to superstitious, science-disdaining, backward, bigoted leftists?

      2. California is better than people think. Motorcyclists can zip around freeway traffic. Property taxes can only go up 1 percent a year. Income taxes are lower than in many “low tax” states if you earn a low to moderate income.

        1. Taxes are only part of the equation… Where California really fucks everybody is regulations. They’re not direct costs, except everybody pays out the ass indirectly. My family moved away from there because of taxes and regulations, since my dad always owned businesses. It is true that if you fit into a certain peg down there you’re not getting hit THAT much harder than in other places, if you live in the right city/county… But you can very easily be getting shafted super hard too. As with any state seemingly slightly different situations can vary the outcome A LOT.

  3. The “least free” states would obviously be the ones with the fewest reproductive health clinics. If people can’t access abortion care, then it hardly matters if they’re “free” to hire help at a lower minimum wage.

    Therefore I have a hard time taking seriously the idea that New York is the least free state. Governor Cuomo is so committed to reproductive rights that he’s said people with anti-abortion views aren’t even welcome there. Surely places like Utah are worse from a pro-freedom perspective.

    1. They are always free to go to another state that does allow abortion.

      1. Nobody should have to travel out of state to exercise a fundamental constitutional right.

        1. There is no “fundamenta right” as in amendment to the Constitution that guarantees this. What you people want is for states to provide it. I am not absolutely opposed to abortion, but do not think the public should pay for it. If clinics are closing in certain states, its because the governments are using their regulatory power to force them out, something states like CA and NY do all the time to other businesses.

          1. ^This

            Too easy for progressives to confuse the lack of somebody else paying for what they want with restrictions on freedom.

          2. Right. If a right is not enumerated, than we can assume that it can be denied or disparaged, right?

            1. Well that essentially was the basis for Obamacare.

    2. Governor Cuomo is so committed to reproductive rights that he’s said people with anti-abortion views aren’t even welcome there

      He might change his mind once he realizes that New Yorkers aren’t having enough babies to prop up his welfare state.

      1. If not enough babies are being born and the population is skewing too old, the answer is simple: more immigration.

        1. There are plenty of immigrants in NY

          1. That is part of what makes New York great and distinguishes it from America’s can’t-keep-up backwaters.

            1. And also why white liberal New Yorkers don’t send their kids to school with those immigrants in America’s trying-to-keep-up urban bughives.

  4. When you are TOO free, you get Florida man.

    1. It’s why they pass so few laws. Florida Man will just ignore them anyway. What’s the point?

  5. Live in #5, visiting #48. Definite noticeable difference.

  6. Why is Vermont friendly on guns but authoritarian on other issues?

    1. They don’t want too many hippie/granola types to get eaten by bears

      1. Ah, protecting the bears. It makes sense now.

  7. There’s no way we in PA are 20th, unless corruption isn’t weighed.

    1. We eased up on our liquor laws recently.

    2. Our gun laws are pretty great too.

    3. ]PA also doesn’t have cops that float around looking for dark suspicious people who might have illegal contraband, or ticketing people who don’t have the correct papers for their cars (you know, to verify that they slipped a $20 to a mechanic to fudge the emissions report). Places like NY, MA, and CA are swimming in traffic cops because it’s a major source of revenue and the dominant source of arrests.

      For the same reason, I’m skeptical that FL belongs #1 when you consider that Miami is a police state. Granted, the United States is not very free relative to most other civilized nations, but Florida shouldn’t be our representative.

      1. “Granted, the United States is not very free relative to most other civilized nations”

        LOL WUT??? Sorry, but the fact that people are thrown in prison every day for their SPEECH in Europe makes me laugh this off. Not to mention their tax rates, higher levels of regulation, gun laws, etc.

        Most of Europe is just as strict on shit like drug laws as we are too, or worse. Basically Europe is more kick back on prostitution laws, and that’s about it… So if hookers being legal is your primary point of reference for freedom, then maybe you have a point… But if it’s not, then you’re smoking crack. And even if it is, just move to Nevada and you get the best of both worlds!

        1. Sorry, but the fact that people are thrown in prison every day for their SPEECH in Europe makes me laugh this off.

          You picked one small factor and think this makes your point? Ok, fine. Let’s look at Europe. How many people in Europe are thrown in jail and how many people in the USA are thrown in jail? The number is different by a factor of nearly 10 in most developed European countries even after you account for population. And of these, how many are in jail WITHOUT A TRIAL? In Europe, this number is less than half what it is the United States.

          You can certainly argue that Europe isn’t a panacea, and I’d agree, but the US government is far more oppressive in almost every way. By the way, Cato agrees with this, consistently ranking USA around 20th in the world (of which economic liberty is a nice little boost for America — for personal liberty, we’re talking much lower).

          1. Ehhh, I get where you’re coming from… But I dunno man.

            On the BIG STUFF I think we win hands down. And big stuff is more important than little stuff in my book. If we bust people for getting stoned more, that sucks, but it’s not the same level of tyranny as being arrested for your speech.

            Also, I think you’re forgetting the differences in demographics. The USA has a lot more non white people… These non white people in the USA commit more crimes, other than Asians of course. I think it is reasonable to assume we may bust black dudes for weed more unfairly, but their ~13% of the population and ~50% of murders every year… I don’t think that’s being made up by whitey to oppress them. They just kill more people because of whatever reasons.

            I know that with murder rates, if you adjust for race, the USA actually has a LOWER murder rate than a number of countries in Europe. I bet if you adjust other jailings for demographics, we probably don’t over incarcerate at all.

            You can whine about the above being unfair, racist, or whatever… But we do have a minority crime problem that Europe is only just beginning to have, strangely enough right as they finally have immigrants coming in en masse. Call it a poverty problem if you must, but it’s a real factor in the stats whatever the underlying cause.

            1. On the BIG STUFF I think we win hands down.

              Big stuff??? Taking someone’s freedom away and throwing them in a cage *is* big stuff. Whether you commit a victimless crime like smoking pot or a victimless crime like saying hateful things, doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. You’re in the cage regardless. And in the USA, you’re in the cage even longer. And thanks to that factor, more INNOCENT people in the USA are being prosecuted because they’re afraid of going to the cage for so long, so they take the plea deal.

              By every metric, the American government is more oppressive than virtually all of the European nations.

              These non white people in the USA commit more crimes, other than Asians of course.

              This is true. (actually, the poor are a better demographic to use than race here — higher correlative scores… but I understand why your belief that whites are superior would lead you to use race here). But this factor is only about 1.5x – 2x different. It doesn’t account for the nearly 10-fold differences in incarceration rate. In other words, the USA is not 10x more dangerous to live in. But its government is 10x more oppressive.

              I bet if you adjust other jailings for demographics, we probably don’t over incarcerate at all.

              Please show this.

              1. On point one, we can agree to disagree. Throwing people in jail for victimless crimes is BS, whatever the crime. However I think oppressing free speech is a more important violation than having pot be illegal. Speech has FAR wider, and important, implications than getting stoned. Same for gun rights, unreasonable searches, etc. Not to mention I’m sure a ton of our jailings are us being harsher on ACTUAL crimes, like theft, etc. For real crimes, I’m actually not much of a softy. I have no problem with harsh punishment of thieves, vandals, violent crimes, etc.

                On the other point, poverty is a good indicator… Except that poor white people DO commit fewer crimes than blacks at the same income levels. Look up the statistics. Poor whites are more criminal than rich ones, just as poor blacks more criminal than rich ones, but poor whites/Asians commit fewer crimes than blacks/Hispanics at the same income levels. Not PC to talk about, but the studies have been done. For MANY crimes blacks are about 10x more likely to commit them on a per capita basis. Murder being an example. For other crimes it is a smaller uptick, but still big. Hispanics are in between, and Asian are better than whites.

                1. ~13% of the population = ~50% of murders vs ~64% of the population = ~15% of murders. Keep in mind there are MORE poor white people than black in the USA overall. Again, whites at the same poverty levels are less criminal. As I said, it’s not PC to discuss, but the numbers speak for themselves. NOBODY ever has the balls to run through the numbers like this, because it looks fucking HORRIBLE for the black community. They’d have to admit there was SOME kind of SERIOUS problem that needs to be dealt with. Did you know blacks actually are more likely to be charged with hate crimes on a per capita basis too? Who’d have thunk? Google it!

                  Frankly, you can blame this disparity on whatever you want. Bad culture works for me, and is surely largely to blame, if not entirely. But the cause doesn’t actually matter for the purposes of comparing incarceration rates. I’m not going to crunch the numbers, but given the above, it would surely bring the USA FAR closer to European levels if adjusted for. Maybe we still are harsher, but not by as much as those top line figures might suggest.

  8. How can Massachusetts be ranked between 6-15?

    Although I am a long time consumer of cannabis, heavily regulated pot should not be viewed as some big pro-liberty proposition. Ditto for dyke and homo weddings.

    Moreover, the more abortion friendly the state, its liberty score should suffer.

    1. States that are abortion or LGBTQ-friendly tend to be rather hostile to economic and consumer freedom I’ve noticed.
      At least in Mass., you are not too far from NH.

      1. Go ahead and get gay married, but don’t you dare start a hair-braiding business without getting licensed!

    2. You said it before I could, Mike

    3. “Ditto for dyke and homo weddings.”

      Yeah, because nothing says freedom quite like the state telling you who you can or can’t marry.

      1. The state shouldn’t be involved in any social institutions.

    4. And so convenes another meeting of Libertarians For Big-Government Womb Management and State Micromanagement Of Certain Clinics.

      Superstitious, Bigoted, Right-Wing Authoritarian Chapter, of course.

      1. Arthur L. Hicklib pointedly omits Liberals For Big-Government Womb Management, given that he’s a can’t-keep-up hicklib.

      2. That’s not accurate. Its more like Libertarians for Government Protection of the Most Innocent Life. Get it right, please.

        1. I have skin cells that are more innocent, and they get murdered all the time. Someone come lock me up!

    5. If you click on a state, you can get a detailed explanation.

      You would also have found out that MA is ranked #23, which isn’t in 6-15. No, it is not an error in the map, the shades of blue are just a little too close together to easily distinguish – I looked up MA because I had the same question (and then went back and looked at the map more closely).

  9. Can’t wait to hear Cuomo’s take on this; that is if he can’t get away with ignoring it altogether. I imagine it will be along the lines of people suffer if there is too much freedom, as the government has to even things up for them.

  10. Florida also recognizes same-sex marriage due to the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

    Doesn’t every state recognize same-sex marriage as a consequence of Obergefell?

  11. Happy to see Colorado is high up, since I just moved here Monday.

    Sad to see my beloved AZ dropped 3 places though. We can do better.

    1. Welcome to the state. But too many other recent arrivals, especially settling in the Denver sprawl, have brought California ethics (and now California style complaints). At least we still have TABOR.

    2. Unfortunately for you, many many Californians moved to Colorado before you.

    3. Just moved to CO from Iowa a few months ago. I am somewhat encouraged that the granola contingent and the bitter clinger contingent seem to not really mind living in the same place together. I mean, I hear the local AM radio hosts (like the ones where there are two or three people blabbering in between songs about local things) talking up gun ownership. Thought this was a hippie state…but I think it is more of a let-people-live-the-way-they-want state. Of course, might be too early to tell.

      1. Talk to old coloradians. They will give you the facts that colorado was very free and turned very lefty in a matter of decades.

      2. Thought this was a hippie state…but I think it is more of a let-people-live-the-way-they-want state

        Unless you’re baking a cake, then the gay/tranny mafia suddenly forgets how to use Yelp.

  12. If he hated flipping any more than he does, he would be Larry Sanders.

    1. Sorry, wrong article.

  13. And West Florida is even freer than the rest of FL.

  14. New York the Least Free State in the U.S.

    No wonder Matt “Welchie Boy” Welch loves it so much.

    1. You are really bad at nicknames.

  15. California ranked behind New York is something? Newsom will fix that.

    1. *in something

      1. Your magic choo choo pulled you from last.

  16. I’m half serious about this: When prosecutors offer scary scenarios of what will happen if they don’t get the laws they want, they should post bond to guarantee that the bad results will actually follow. If the laws they don’t like get passed, and the bad consequences don’t follow, the bond should be forfeited and given to a legal aid fund for defendants.

    1. Only of the bond is paid from public sector pension funds. With priority.

  17. Report: The sun will rise in the east tomorrow. Politicians lie.

  18. Indiana? GTFO. No way.

  19. Maryland is #7 for government consumption, as in they have low state government spending? WTF?

    1. And then almost last when it comes to local taxation. It’s true that Maryland has somewhat decentralized taxation and spending, but that doesn’t mean it’s a freer place to live. What dumb methodology.

    2. Overall Regulatory Policy Ranking – Maryland #47, ok that sounds right.

  20. New York is bad in economic freedom? I bet no business gets done there!

    Wall Street is in New York. Does that prove that this ranking is wrong, or does it prove that less free states support business better?

    1. It proves that a stock exchange isn’t business and that exchanges are sticky and difficult to move. Now take a look at actual business growth in NY and be underwhelmed.

      1. There are exchanges around the country. Deals get done in New York because the laws deter fraud.

        1. No, deals get done in New York because the financial power sector’s lived there for over 200 years.

    2. Mostly it proves businesses aren’t concerned about the same kind of “economic freedoms” as Cato is.

    3. No, it merely proves that New York is better suited to financial businesses that merely move money around and can pay off politicians will thrive. Dirt-under-the-fingernails type business? Not so much.

    4. Also, all snark aside, bad in economic freedom doesn’t mean business doesn’t get done, it merely means that the costs of doing business end up being very high, and only the connected or wealthy can easily start a business there.

    5. Ask Trump about how bad NY is to business.

      He knows all too well how corrupt politicians are as he had to work with them to get his business deals done.

      its why he is so effective at owning Lefties. They got drunk at his parties and shot off about at the mouth about all their deepest Socialist fantasies.

      I am sure that Chapman, Gillespie, and ENB were there.

      1. But only for the shrimp cocktails.

  21. All that means is that New York is the least racist state, and Florida is the most racist state.

    1. State’s rights now are NOT racist anymore.

      Per the Lefty memo issued recently.

  22. As a Californian, nothing but depression can come by reading their list. La la la la la.

    1. Yet so many companies choose here. Socialism is good for business!

      1. Reason, for example.

    2. Many comanies started in commifornia before the tyrannical socialism started.

      Amazon is looking for a more free state to move its headquarters. Amazon is lefty too. Seattle is literally to socialist for amazon.

  23. Given real estate prices, which reflect consumer demand, this simple minded glibertarian analysis fails in terms of its own marketolatry.

    Even Ayn Rand preferred NYC to Bird City, KS.

    1. Your precious liberal bughives have the worst income inequality in the country, shitlib.

      1. Also, fuckin’ LOL at a dude mocking anyone for “simple-minded” thinking while fetishizing booga-booga noble savage religiosity.

  24. California is bottom 5 in freedom
    Reason: let’s have our event celebrating freedom there

  25. I notice that bans on female toplessness or public nudity in general don’t appear to be used in the calculations. it occurs to me that I have never seen a libertarian (or Libertarian) position on public obscenity laws that extend to simple nudity or are unevenly structured between men & women. I had expected to find it in the report calculations under victimless, but it isn’t there. are the authors on here, and can they answer whether nudity laws are taken into account?? can anyone else answer as to a libertarian perspective on this??

    1. You’re not going to get a straight answer. You have the law-and-order “libertarians” who would be highly offended by the sight of breasts in public and need the state to make sure to squash it. And then you have “libertarians” who claim that a topless woman is an affront to humanity and this counts as a violation of the NAP and is therefore fair game to be shot and killed. And then there are “libertarians” who will simply defer the question to what some guy in the 1700’s said. Or Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I forget which.

    2. That’s one of those funny issues where a purist, extreme reading of the NAP takes you to silly places.

      Personally, I don’t want to see naked people running around everywhere. I would be okay with some public properties being designated as saaay nude beaches though. Because people know what they’re getting into if they go there. Private property owners should of course be able to do whatever the hell they want.

      Nudity is one thing… It outright offends some, is just gross/annoying to others, others are all about it… But taking the same principle a step further: What about some guy just taking a shit on the sidewalk while buck naked? Let us assume he will pick up his own turd afterwards, so as not to be “littering” or anything. Should that be acceptable?

      Or still further, what about a 70 year old man, standing outside a pre-school, beating off staring at the children? He’s not committing violence against anybody is he? He’s just in his natural state man!

      This is why I have common sense exceptions to extreme readings of the NAP. I don’t think old men should be able to jerk off staring at 3 year olds playing in a playground… Sorry. Basically nobody is in favor of this. Hence 100% purist NAP application is sometimes nonsense. It’s a guidepost that should always be HEAVILY considered when making laws, but there are times it should not be adhered to in public spaces. Private spaces can do as they please of course.

  26. So I did a pretty good skim through of the full report, and looked at a lot of the details. The economic sections seemed to be pretty decent. One could quibble about a few things, but it was okay.

    The personal freedom one though… Boy are they putting a lot of weight on some stupid shit. I get it, legal weed is cool. It should be legal… But does legal weed really offset all the death of 1,000 cuts nanny state rules like they have in Cali/NY/etc? Not to me. Yet a bunch of blueish states come out towards the top! Hell no.

    They likewise put NOT issuing drivers licenses to ILLEGAL ALIENS as something that counted against personal freedom! In what universe man?

    There were decent things in there too, like arrest/incarceration rates for victimless crimes… I reckon that is reasonable.

    But let’s get real here, most of the criteria they used are basically things 95% of normal decent people give no fucks about, but they will get pissed when their straws are made illegal, which only happens in retarded blue states. In my experience most conservative states have more personal freedoms too, especially ones that actually matter.

    Unless you’re a dope smoking, hooker banging, alcoholic, illegal alien, professional gambler their freedom ranking is basically bunk. Not that dope, whores, and gambling shouldn’t be legal, but those really aren’t things of massive importance to most people in their day to day lives.

    1. Idaho, where I will probably be moving, should probably be high up in the top 10, like maybe top 5… Versus 17 overall… Their bunk personal freedom score tanked it. I imagine with a rating system based more on shit most people actually care about, the rankings would be completely different. Again it’s not that a lot of those things don’t matter at all, but most people on this site really wouldn’t put gambling laws as being as/more important than 2A protections or whatever.

      So I’d say take this list with a grain of salt.

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